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Automation, AI and anxiety: Policy preferred, populism possible

Together, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to fundamentally reshape economics and social life. How will these trends affect politics and public policy? Will they expand or lessen the appeal of populism? Will they make it easier or more difficult for governments to shape public policy? This report explores the potential for automation and AI to lead to widespread political and policy unrest and change in Canada. To examine this, we consider four related questions about automation and AI: how knowledgeable are citizens about automation and AI? What do they expect its effects to be for themselves, for employment and the economy, and for society? How worried are they about the potential effects of automation and AI? What kinds of politics and bundles of policy responses are citizens willing to support to confront the challenges (and opportunities) of automation and AI? To understand citizens’ views on automation and AI and their related policy preferences, we surveyed 1,995 Canadians in May and June 2019. Our survey sample was drawn from multiple panels with quotas for age, gender and region, providing a representative sample of the population. Our goal was to understand how people’s exposure to automation and AI and their own beliefs about them—which may not align—relate to their preferences for various policy responses to the challenges of automation and AI.